The world needs Sha’Carri Richardson — a fierce black woman who kicks ass and takes names, dominating the field on her own terms, taking the track with her long dyed hair, tattoos, decorated nails and decked in jewels. She’s the kind of polarizing athlete that stands in opposition of the old guard while captivating the imagination of the next generation. At only 21 years old, she’s a sensation set to introduce herself to the world at the Tokyo Games later this month.
As a freshman at LSU, she broke the NCAA record for the women’s 100 meter sprint with a time of 10.75 seconds. She is a gold-medal favorite in the event at the Tokyo Olympics after winning her trials heat.
However, Richardson won’t be competing in her calling-card event because of a failed drug test. No, not steroids or some other form of performance enhancing drug. She tested positive for Marijuana.
“Richardson’s competitive results obtained on June 19, 2021, including her Olympic qualifying results at the Team Trials, have been disqualified, and she forfeits any medals, points, and prizes. Beyond the one-month sanction, athlete eligibility for the Tokyo Games is determined by the USOPC and/or USA Track & Field eligibility rules,” the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) said today in a statement.
Richardson was in Oregon — where marijuana is legal — for the U.S. Olympic Trials last month, where she mentioned the death of her biological mother.
“My family has kept me grounded. This year has been crazy for me going from just last week losing my biological mother and I’m still here,” she said during an interview after securing her spot on the Olympic team. “My biological mother passed away and [I’m] still choosing to pursue my dreams, still coming out here, still making sure to make the family that I do still have on this earth proud.”
In an interview this morning on the TODAY Show, Richardson addressed her failed drug test. She said that she smoked marijuana in Oregon after learning of the death of her biological mother to help her cope with her emotions. Richardson has done nothing but handle the situation with grace, while taking responsibility for her choices.
“I just want to take responsibility for my actions, I know what I did, I know what I’m supposed to do, I’m allowed not to do and I still made that decision. I’m not making an excuse or looking for any empathy in my case,” Richardson said.
“It will never be a steroid, it will never be a steroid attached to the name Sha’Carri Richardson,” she said in the interview.
Marijuana is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of prohibited substances. Both USADA and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee are signatories to the WADA code, meaning they follow its rules.
According to USADA, marijuana is a prohibited substance because it “can enhance performance, it poses a health risk to athletes, and its use violates the spirit of the sport.”
Two things can be true. It can be true that Richardson broke a rule that she knew existed, while it can also be true that a failed test for a substance that is legalized in 18 states, including the state where Richardson used it, should not ruin the dreams of an athlete.
If Richardson had a couple drinks instead of smoking a legal substance where she was, she would be heading to Tokyo as the favorite in the Women’s 100M. Instead, she currently is awaiting word from the USOPC as to whether or not she will be allowed to compete in relay events at the Olympics after her one month suspension concludes on July 28, or if she will be sitting home watching her teammates.
Instead of continuing to penalize athletes for the use of marijuana, a substance that can help them relax and cope with the pressures and physical exertion that they endure, prioritizing emotional and mental health for them — and for everyone, for that matter — should come first. It is truly an enraging travesty that we will be deprived of Sha’Carri Richardson in the 100M dash because she smoked some weed after learning that her mother died.